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The Blind Side

Object of Play

Every human being has blind spots and every company does, too. Knowledge openness can enhance businesses and relationships while knowledge blindness can make things unnecessarily more difficult. In other words, what we don’t know can hurt us. The military refers to this as “the fog of war.” The premise of this game, therefore, is to disclose and discover unknown information that can impact organizational and group success in any area of the company—management, planning, team performance, and so forth.

Number of Players

5–15

Duration of Play

30–45 minutes

How to Play

  1. Before the meeting, decide on a topic for discussion. Draw a large-scale profile of a person and draw four arrows coming out of the top of the head. Label those arrows “Know/Know”, “Know/Don’t Know”, “Don’t Know/Know”, and “Don’t Know/Don’t Know”.
  2. Give the players access to sticky notes and markers and tell them that the purpose of this game is to try to make explicit the knowledge they have, and the knowledge they don’t have but could use.
  3. Start with the Know/Know category. Elicit from the group all information about the topic that they know they know. This category should go quickly and should gener- ate a lot of content. Ask the players to write one bit of knowledge per sticky note and cluster them near the arrow pertaining to that category. (They’ll do this for each category.)
  4. Next, tackle Know/Don’t Know. This category will go less quickly than the first but should still generate plenty of content. Again, ask them to cluster the sticky notes near the related arrow.
  5. Move to Don’t Know/Know. This information could be skills people have that are currently not used to solve problems or untapped resources that have been forgotten.
  6. Last, move to Don’t Know/Don’t Know. The group will be stopped here, possibly indefinitely. This category is where discovery and shared exploration take place. Ask the players provocative questions: What does this team know that your team doesn’t know it doesn’t know? How can you find out what you don’t know you don’t know?
  7. Ask the group what they can do to proactively address the distinct challenges of each category. Discuss insights and “aha’s”. Even if the players’ only revelation is that they have blind spots, this in itself can be a fruitful discovery.

Strategy

This game works best with a familiar team when the participants cross disciplines and responsibilities. Having a diverse group enhances the feedback loop for the Don’t Know categories, which are where the players are going to get stuck. They’ll be confident about what they know—and even about what they know they don’t know—but without an outside perspective, it’s next to impossible to declare what we don’t know we don’t know. The nature of this question warrants discussion and the solicitation of others’ observations.

Because this game has an obvious trust-building component, start by sharing easy information and move toward more substantive information depending on the players’ comfort level. Keep the group on business- or project-related topics and away from personal evaluations. Although The Blind Side can be used as a psychological assessment, the self-help applications of this game should be conducted outside the business setting, unless you’re dealing with the rare group that’s into that.

The Blind Side is inspired by and adapted from the Johari Window, a communication model developed by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham.

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Making The Game Come Alive

The most exciting thing about gamestorming is the creativity it allows me. I’m essentially freed to create an experience perfectly suited for my audience. Because while the games the folks at Xplane have created are effective, they are still just “old standards.” They are like Monopoly® or Scrabble®. Everyone can play and everyone can enjoy. But when a game is created specifically for a situation or an audience, it can be truly magical and memorable

Recently I went to run a gamestorm for a friend. After years at an agency he helped found, he allowed his partner to buy him out and was now questing for the 2.0 of his career. So while many of the suggested games may have worked, the personal nature of his need to uncover his true passion and brand demanded something more.

Now this friend is also a musician. Okay, let’s face it — He’s an old hippie musician. He used to play in bands in the 70s, still shreds a mean guitar and quotes lyrics from America and stuff. So I knew that a game involving music would both intrigue and inspire him.

But music was just a mechanic. The game still needed structure. That’s when the idea of creating a game structured around a comeback album came to me.

Just like when creating songs, we would start out with what inspired us. We’d stay focused on business, but we’d talk about both our personal and professional inspirations. And from that we would derive the basis of song ideas or “riffs”. Then we’d group these elements into “chords” (artifacts), arrange our chords into “progressions” (nodes), create  “songs” (pattern recognition and door closing) and then identify our formula for a hit song (end game or goal).

Here’s a glimpse of the game we worked from:

The Comeback Album of The Decade Game

Object:

Famous rockstar agency principle and creative god, [redacted], has had a long and distinguished career in the classic rock powerhouse group, [redacted]. Now he finds himself out on his own ready to recast himself into the next chapter of his career. He’s in the planning stages of his big comeback album and we need to help.

The game will be broken into five distinct parts.

  • We will determine what riffs we want to hit (one hour)
  • We will establish “chords” for those life notes (half hour)
  • We will arrange the “chords” into hot progressions (half hour)
  • We will play with possible “songs” (half hour)
  • We will identify our formula for “hit” songs (half hour + after game assessment)

Part I:

Finding our Riffs: We put on post-up’s everything that we love in life and in marketing, whether we have done it or not. These will form our riffs for the song. This is beyond expertise. This is about the expanse of what we want stand for in life and work. (60 min)

Part II:

Next we will group the ideas into common themes and see what initial patterns are observed. We will also identify outliers and eliminate them from the discussion. Then once grouped, major idea groups will be assigned major power chords, while supporting idea groups will get minor chords. (30 min)

Part III:

Next we will arrange our chords into logical progressions and test to make sure that the chords work well together. As a mnemonic we will use actual guitars to test the chords and make sure the progressions make sense musically and make adjustments as necessary. (30 min)

Part IV:

We will then take items from each grouping to form our songs, mixing and matching across each progression to understand how each progression works and what it means to the song as a whole. Guitars may be used to play our songs. We will then test how one progression leads to the next and arrange the progressions in order of importance or impact. (30 min)

Part V:

We will finally have our discussions to start closing off the loops and identifying what is working best in an attempt to create our hit formula. Will use star-shaped post its to boil down the intent of each progression into an even simpler idea. The result being the “anthem” or brand essence of this new band will be. (30 min + after-session assessment)

Out of respect for privacy, I won’t share many details about how the game ran. But I can tell you that the day was a phenomenal success.

Using off-the-shelf post-up notes, post-up letters (to represent the chords), markers, star-shaped post-ups (to indicate our “hits”) and guitars, we were able to set aside the concerns of what he should be doing and get focused on what he should be feeling. In fact, the biggest patterns that emerged had nothing to do with the services he wished to offer. Instead, we found themes about ethics and employee relations that defined his personal fulfillment as coming more from being a leader than a doer.

Now I don’t want to fool you here. This game did not run perfectly. It was the first time I ran it and I changed plenty on the fly to keep it fresh and alive. When running a new game you have to expect things not to work. It also felt like there was a dead spot during the song writing because my own energy was flagging. (Note to self: afternoon pot of coffee and maybe skip lunch.)

But ultimately the game’s success is determined by the players enjoyment, not the game master’s sense of accomplishment. And on that front, it was a raving success. My friend could not tear his eyes off the wall. He wanted to keep it up for a few weeks just to contemplate it. And after I wrote my assessment and emailed it to him, I could see why. There was real direction hiding there in terms of what his next steps should be.

I also learned a valuable lesson about gamestorming. Since the concept was developed by artists, the examples of play given in the book lean toward the visual. But there are all kinds of games. And in our case, the game was auditory.

During our game there was a lot of repeating themes out loud and listening to them in musical form. The visual was still present, but the game was designed to stimulate the ears. And the resulting insights were things that needed to be said, rather than seen.

For me, this understanding of game structure helps me understand that there are five senses present with any player. Taking advantage of these senses in game structure and leveraging the most applicable ones, will always make the game more relevant and memorable.

Bob Knorpp is a marketing and advertising strategist. He is host of Ad Age Outlook and The BeanCast Marketing Podcast.

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Welcome To My World

Overlap Toronto

Object of Play

Many of us make the mistaken assumption that others see what we see and know what we know. No one in the world shares your internal system map of reality. The best way to compare notes, so to speak, is to actually draw an external representation of what you think is happening. Welcome to My World gives players an opportunity to better understand other players’ roles and responsibilities. It helps chip away at silos and introduces the novel idea that we may be seeing only one reality: ours. It helps immensely to show what we see to others so that we can start to share a reality and work on it together.

Number of Players

8–20

Duration of Play

30 minutes to 1 hour

How to Play

1. Give all players access to flip-chart paper, markers, and sticky notes. Ask them to take 30 seconds to write one of their job responsibilities (e.g., create the company newsletter or devise a marketing strategy for Product X) on a sticky note and stick it to their shirt.

2. Have the players wander around the room and pair up with someone whose job responsibility they’re the least familiar with or that they’re curious about. If you have an odd number of players, join them to even it out.

3. In pairs, ask the players to take turns drawing their best representation of how they envision the other person’s workflow around that job duty. They can use simple circles, boxes, and arrows to make flowcharts or they can get creative, but they cannot interview the other player or ask any clarifying questions while they’re drawing.  Give them 5–15 minutes to draw quietly.

4. When the time is up, give each player five minutes to share her drawing with the other person and describe what it means.

5. Then give the pairs 5–10 minutes each to clarify or agree on the realities of each other’s drawing. They should also take time to discuss where the areas of ease, friction, and interactions with others fall in the process. They can elaborate and draw on the other person’s visual at this point, or the original creator of the visual can add content as his partner shares.

6. Ask for volunteers to show their visuals to the larger group and to describe some of their insights and observations.

Strategy

To be maximally effective, this game has one requirement: the players should represent a range of positions or job responsibilities within an organization. The game rapidly loses its value if all the participants have the same, predictable workflow, like processing an undisputed insurance claim. The idea is to educate each other on the realities of their work duties and to help break down silos across organizational areas. Once the insights start coming out, this game can significantly increase the understanding and appreciation of others’ work. And it can be even more effective when you have players who have to work together but historically have had little insight into—or even patience with—their colleagues’ processes.

Most people feel comfortable drawing basic shapes and workflow-related diagrams since these are common in company life. If, however, players balk at having to draw, tell them they’re welcome to rely only on words, but they’ll miss an opportunity to make a simple picture of someone else’s “world” at work.

The source for the Welcome to My World game is unknown.

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Open Space

Meshforum 2006

Object of Play
Open Space technology is a method for hosting large events, such as retreats and conferences, without a prepared agenda. Instead, participants are brought together under a guiding purpose and create the agenda for themselves in a bulletin-board fashion. These items become potential breakout sessions, and participants have the freedom to “vote with their feet” by moving between breakouts.

Open Space was founded by Harrison Owen in the 1980s out of a desire to “open the space” for people to self-organize around a purpose. Many meetings and examples have been recorded at Openspaceworld.org. Hosting a small Open Space meeting is fairly straightforward, but requires an amount of “letting go” on the part of the organizer, who must recognize that the participants will develop a richer approach and solution to the challenge at hand.

Number of Players: 5–2,000

Duration of Play: A day or longer

How to Play

Setup: An Open Invitation
Perhaps the most important work of the organizer is developing a compelling invitation. The ideal invitation will frame a challenge that is urgent, important, and complex enough to require a diverse set of perspectives to solve. It might sound as simple as “How can we revitalize our city’s schools?” or “What’s our strategic direction?”

Create the Marketplace
At the start of the process, participants sit in a circle, or in concentric circles, to get oriented and start to create their agenda. Given the challenge of the meeting, participants are invited to come to the center and write out an issue they’re passionate about, and then post it on a “marketplace” wall with a time and place at which they are willing to host the discussion. All are invited to create an item for the marketplace, but no one is required to. Creating the agenda in this fashion should take between 60 and 90 minutes.

The “Law of Two Feet”
The breakouts then begin, typically lasting 90 minutes per session. Participants may organize their breakouts however they see fit; the host records the discussion so that others may join the conversation at any time. Participants are asked to observe the one law of Open Space, the Law of Two Feet, which asks that if you find yourself neither learning nor contributing, use your two feet to go somewhere else. In this sense, participants are given full responsibility over their learning and contributions.

Pulling It All Together
Breakouts may last for a day or more, depending on the scope of the event. Closing the event may take many forms, the least desirable of which is a formal report from the groups. Instead, return to the circle arrangement that started the event, and open the space again for participants who want to reflect on what they’ve discovered and their next steps.

Strategy
Keep in mind the four principles of Open Space that will help set the tone of the event:

1. Whoever comes are the right people. Passion is more important than position on an org chart.

2. Whenever it starts is the right time. Spirit and creativity do not run on the clock.

3. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have. Dwelling or complaining about past events and missed opportunities is a waste of time; move on.

4. When it’s over, it’s over. When a conversation is finished, move on. Do the work, not the time.

You can read more about Open Space at openspaceworld.org.

Open Space game rules been popularized and incorporated into many self-organizing events which are known under different names, most prominently BarCamps and Unconferences. The concept of Open Space was put forth in Open Space Technology: A User’s Guide, by Harrison Owen.

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Poster Session

Meshforum 2006

Object of Play
If a picture is worth a thousand words, what would 50 pictures be worth? What if 50 people could present their most passionate ideas to each other—without any long-winded explanation? A poster session accelerates the presentation format by breaking it down, forcing experts to boil up their ideas and then present back to each other via simple images.

Number of Players: 10–100

Duration of Play: 20 minutes to develop posters, an unlimited time to browse

How to Play
The goal of a poster session is to create a set of compelling images that summarize a challenge or topic for further discussion. Creating this set might be an “opening act” which then sets the stage for choosing an idea to pursue, or it might be a way to get indexed on a large topic. The act of creating a poster forces experts and otherwise passionate people to stop and think about the best way to communicate the core concepts of
their material, avoiding the popular and default “show up and throw up.”

To set up, everyone will need ample supplies for creating their poster. Flip charts and markers are sufficient, but consider bringing other school supplies to bear: stickers, magazines for cutting up, and physical objects.
Start the game play by first framing the challenge. In any given large group, you could say the following:

“There are more good ideas in everyone’s heads than there is time to understand and address them. By creating posters that explain the ideas, we’ll have a better idea of what’s out there and what we might work on.”

The participants’ task is to create a poster that explains their topic. There are two constraints:

1. It must be self-explanatory. If you gave it to a person without walking her through it, would she understand?

2. It must be visual. Words and labels are good, but text alone will not be enough to get people’s attention, or help them understand. When creating their poster, participants may be helped by thinking about three kinds of explanation:

Before and After: Describe “why” someone should care in terms of drawing the today and tomorrow of the idea.

System: Describe the “what” of an idea in terms of its parts and their relationships.

Process: Describe the “how” of an idea in terms of a sequence of events.

Give participants 20 minutes to create their posters. When they have finished, create a “gallery” of the images by posting them on the wall. Instead of elaborate presentations, ask the group to circulate and walk the gallery. Some posters will attract and capture more attention than others. From here, it may be worthwhile to have participants dot vote (see Dot Voting) or “vote with their feet” (See Open Space) to decide what ideas to pursue further.

Strategy
As a variation, the posters may be created in small groups. In this case, it’s important for the group to have decided ahead of time what their topic will be, and to give more time to come to a consensus on what they will draw and how they will draw it.

On a smaller scale, a group may do this around a conference table. A small group of experts may create posters to explain their different points of view to each other at the start of a meeting, to make their models of the world, their vocabulary, and their interests clear and explicit. Twenty minutes spent in this way may save the group from endless discussion later in their process.

The Poster Session game is based on academic poster sessions, in which authors of papers that are not ready for publication share their ideas in an informal, conversational group.

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Force Field Analysis

Force Field Analysis
Force Field image by Seth Starner

Object of Play
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus asserted that change alone is unchanging. This is certainly true in today’s competitive global marketplace. As employees, we’re often responsible for understanding and even anticipating change in order to stay ahead. The Force Field Analysis game is a time-tested way to evaluate the forces that affect change which can ultimately affect our organizations. Making a deliberate effort to see the system surrounding change can help us steer the change in the direction we want it to move.

Number of Players: 5–30

Duration of Play: 30 minutes to 1.5 hours

How to Play
1. Before the meeting, draw a picture of a potential change in the middle of a large sheet of paper or a whiteboard. You can draw a literal representation (e.g., a manufacturing plant) or a more abstract representation (e.g., a metaphor). Label the picture to ensure that everyone participating will be clear on the topic.

2. On the top left of the page, write the phrase “Forces FOR Change”. On the top right, write the phrase “Forces AGAINST Change”.

3. Draw arrows on both sides pointing toward the image in the middle. These will be the areas that contain categories generated by the group, so make the arrows large enough to write 1–2-inch letters inside. If you like the “wow” factor of drawing live with the group but you’re not yet comfortable with freehand, sketch the arrows in pencil or yellow marker and trace them during the meeting.

4. When the group is gathered, introduce the change topic and explain that the goal of the Force Field Analysis game is to evaluate the feasibility of that change.

5. Ask the players to take 5–10 minutes and quietly generate ideas about what elements are driving the change. Tell them to include one idea per sticky note.

6. Ask the players to take 5–10 minutes and quietly generate ideas about what elements are restraining the change.

7. Draw a simple scale with a range of 1 to 5 on your main flip chart. Indicate that 1 means the force is weak and 5 means the force is strong. Ask them to review each idea FOR change and add a number to that sticky note, weighting that idea. Ask them to review each idea AGAINST change and add a number to that sticky note, weighting that idea.

8. Gather all of the sticky notes FOR change and post them to any flat surface viewable by the players.

9. With the group’s collaboration, sort the ideas based on their affinity to other ideas. For example, if they produced three sticky notes that say “Can’t continue production at current cost”, “Materials cost too high”, and “Overexpenditure on production”, cluster those ideas together. Create multiple clusters until you have clustered the majority of the sticky notes. Place outliers separate from the clusters but still in playing
range.

10. After the sorting activity is complete, begin a group conversation to create an overarching category for each cluster. For example, an overarching category for the cluster from step 9 might be “unsustainable costs”.

11. As the group makes suggestions and finds agreement on categories, write those categories inside the arrows on the main visual.

12. As you categorize each cluster, direct the group’s attention to the numeric scores within that cluster. Get an average for each cluster and write that number next to the related category in the arrow.

13. Repeat steps 8–12 using the sticky notes generated AGAINST change.

14. Add the quantities for and against change and write the totals at the bottom and on the appropriate side of the sheet.

15. Summarize the overall findings with the group, including the numeric totals, and discuss the implications of whether change should occur.

Force Field example

Strategy
Often when you play the Force Field Analysis game, it will not be the first time the players have considered the change under discussion. Many of them will have preconceived beliefs about whether the change should occur. So, be aware of group dynamics—whether they’re eager for or resistant to the change. If you sense that they’re eager, encourage them to give equal consideration to forces against it. If they seem reluctant, encourage them to imagine their wildest dream with respect to this change and describe what’s already in place to support it. Don’t let employees with fixed perspectives on either side dominate the conversation.

This game is about exploring the viability of change in an open-minded way. So, be sure to acknowledge and discuss any ideas that end up as outliers in the clusters—they frequently turn out to be valuable by offering unforeseen perspectives. Along that same line, don’t assume that the numeric totals resolutely answer the question of whether change should occur. The totals are another gauge by which to measure where the group may stand. Use them as fodder for further conversation and evaluation. And if you want to take the evaluation further, ask the group to look for meta-categories after they’ve brainstormed the categories within the arrows. Meta-categories should be a level higher than the categories generated from the clusters. They could include “politics”, “economics”, “company culture”, or “mid-level management”. Seeing meta-categories can also help the group determine where the bulk of the evaluation may need to be focused.

This game is based on the Force Field Analysis framework developed by Kurt Lewin.

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SWOT Analysis

SWOT analysis

Object of Play
In business, it can be easier to have certainty around what we want, but more difficult to understand what’s impeding us in getting it. The SWOT Analysis is a long-standing technique of looking at what we have going for us with respect to a desired end state, as well as what we could improve on. It gives us an opportunity to gauge approaching opportunities and dangers, and assess the seriousness of the conditions that affect our future. When we understand those conditions, we can influence what comes next. So, if you need to evaluate your organization or team’s current likelihood of success relative to an objective.

Number of Players: 5–20

Duration of Play: 1–2 hours

How to Play
1. Before the meeting, write the phrase “Desired End State” and draw a picture of what it might look like on a piece of flip-chart paper.

2. Create a separate four-square quadrant using four sheets of flip-chart paper. If you think the complexity of the discussion and the number of players warrants more quadrants, create as many as you’d like.

3. At the top left of the quadrant, write the word “STRENGTHS” and draw a picture depicting that concept. For example, for “STRENGTHS” you might draw a simple picture of someone holding up a car with one hand. (Yes, you’re allowed to exaggerate.) Ask the players to take 5–10 minutes and quietly generate ideas about strengths they have with respect to the desired end state and write them on sticky notes, one idea per sticky note.

4. At the bottom left of the quadrant, write the word “WEAKNESSES” and draw a picture depicting that concept. Ask the players again to take 5–10 minutes to quietly generate ideas about weaknesses around the desired end state and write them on sticky notes.

5. At the top right of the quadrant, write the word “OPPORTUNITIES” and draw a picture. Ask the players to take 5–10 minutes to write ideas about opportunities on sticky notes.

6. At the bottom right of the quadrant, write the word “THREATS” and draw a picture depicting that concept. Ask the players to use this last set of 5–10 minutes to generate ideas about perceived threats and write them on sticky notes.

7. When you sense a lull in sticky-note generation, gather all of the sticky notes and post them on a flat surface that is near the quadrant and is viewable by the players. Be sure to keep the sticky notes in their original groups of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

8. Start with the STRENGTHS group of sticky notes and, with the players’ collaboration, sort the ideas based on their affinity to other ideas. For example, if they produced three sticky notes that say “good sharing of information,” “information transparency,” and “people willing to share data,” cluster those ideas together. Create multiple clusters until you have clustered the majority of the sticky notes. Place outliers separate from the clusters but still in playing range. (At this stage, it’s important to note that if you have a group with five players or less, you can eliminate the sticky-note clustering process and simply write and draw their responses for each category as the players verbalize them. After you’ve gone through each section of the quadrant, players can dot vote.) Repeat the clustering and sorting process for the other categories in this order: WEAKNESSES, OPPORTUNITIES, and finally, THREATS.

9. After the sorting and clustering is complete, start a group conversation to create a broad category for each smaller cluster. For example, a category for the cluster from step 8 might be “communication”. As the group makes suggestions and finds agreement on categories, write those categories in the appropriate quadrant.

10. When the players feel comfortable with the categories, ask them to approach the quadrant and dot vote next to two or three categories in each square, indicating that they believe those to be the most relevant for that section. Circle or highlight the information that got the most votes and make a note of it with the group.

11. Summarize the overall findings in conversation with the players and ask them to discuss the implications around the desired end state. Engage the group in a creative exercise wherein they evaluate weaknesses and threats positively, as though their presence is doing them a favor. Ask them thought-provoking
questions, like “What if your competition didn’t exist?” and “How does this threat have the potential to make the organization stronger?”

Optional activity: Lead the group in creating silly slogans for the desired end state. Let them be ridiculous: “Our lamps will light up the world.” The idea is to create humor and excitement around possibilities.

Strategy
The SWOT Analysis is at its best when the group is unabashed in its provision and analysis of content. The players are less likely to be shy about their strengths, but they may struggle to suggest weaknesses due to sensitivity to other players or to blind spots in their own thinking. Frame the notion of “weakness” to mean something that can be improved upon. Similarly, a “threat” is something that can act as a catalyst for performance improvement. Let the group know that the higher the quality of their contributions, the better they will be able to evaluate what’s on the horizon. You’ll have a good sense that
the game was successful when you hear the group thoughtfully consider the data and express insights they didn’t have before.

This game was inspired by Albert Humphrey’s traditional SWOT Analysis.

Online SWOT Analysis

SWOT AnalysisHere is another image of the SWOT Analysis Game. But this one is special – clicking on this image will start an “instant play” game at www.innovationgames.com. In this game, there will be four different icons that you can drag on your online SWOT Analysis to capture your thinking. These icons are as follows:

  • Rocket ships represent opportunities.
  • The fit person represents strengths.
  • The weak person represents weaknesses.
  • The bomb represents threats.

We’ve organized this game so that the regions will capture where you’ve placed each of ideas.

Keep in mind that that this is a collaborative game. This means that you can invite other players to play. And when they drag something around – you’ll see it in real time!

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Impact & Effort Matrix

 

Impact & Effort Matrix, originally uploaded by dgray_xplane.

Object of Play
In this decision-making exercise, possible actions are mapped based on two factors: effort required to implement and potential impact. Some ideas are costly, but may have a bigger long-term payoff than short-term actions. Categorizing ideas along these lines is a useful technique in decision making, as it obliges contributors to balance and evaluate suggested actions before committing to them.

Number of Players: Based on small groups, but can scale to any size

Duration of Play: 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the size of the group

How to Play
Given a goal, a group may have a number of ideas for how to achieve it. To open the exercise, frame the goal in terms of a “What to do” or “What we need” question. This may sound as simple as “What do we need to reach our goal?” Ask the group to generate ideas individually on sticky notes. Then, using Post-Up, ask them to present their ideas back to the group by placing them within a 2×2 matrix that
is organized by impact and effort: Impact: The potential payoff of the action, vs. Effort: The cost of taking the action

Strategy
As participants place their ideas into the matrix, the group may openly discuss the position of elements. It is not uncommon for an idea to be bolstered by the group and to move up in potential impact or down in effort. In this respect, the category of high impact, low effort will often hold the set of ideas that the group is most agreed upon and committed to.

The source of the Impact & Effort Matrix game is unknown.

Impact & Effort

Clicking on this image will bring you to an “instant game” at innovationgames.com, where you can play Impact & Effort Matrix online. The same image will be used as the matrix, which has a different impact-effort combination in each quadrant.

• High Impact, Low Effort: The best ideas go here!
• High Impact, High Effort: Further study is likely required.
• Low Impact, High Effort: Probably best to avoid these.
• Low Impact, Low Effort: Further study is likely required.

The light bulbs you will see at the upper left corner of the chart represent ideas. Simply add an idea to the chart by dragging a light bulb to its corresponding quadrant and describing what it is.

All moves can be seen in real time by each participant, so everyone can collaborate to edit the descriptions and positions of the posted strategies. Communicate using the integrated chat facility to work together and form useful ideas.

 

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Back of the Napkin

NapkinBack

Object of Play:
The goal for each team is to come up with an answer  to a provocative question and write/draw it up on the back of a napkin.

Number of Players: Teams of 3. (See strategy section for discussion of different team sizes.)  No limit to the number of teams other than what the organizer wants.

Duration of Play: TBD by organizer.  Minimum amount of time recommended:  10 minutes per team per question.

Examples: Here are examples of questions and  napkins from the recent TEDxTC event in St. Paul, MN.  [1] [2] [3]

How to Play

  • Game is played in teams.
  • There is at least 1 problem statement/open-ended question per game session.
  • Each team writes and/or draws their answer on a napkin.
  • Each answer appears on one side of the (folded) napkin.
  • Players write their names on the other side of the napkin.
  • Optional:  Players may enter as many solutions as they want, however, each submission has to be from a different team.
  • Optional:  Each team must be comprised of at least 2 people who have just met or are just meeting.
  • Optional:  A group of judges will look at the entries.   Play for bragging rights or for a prize.  To keep it clear that there are all sorts of possibilities, offer different categories, such as:
    • Most Practical
    • Most Out-of-the-Box
    • Most Whimsical
    • Most Visual

Strategy
As a facilitator/organizer, why might you play this game?  Here are some reasons:

  • To introduce people to each other and/or to facilitate networking amongst them.
  • To provide a fun, competitive way to brainstorm.
  • To turn the reception for an event into an experience that people value as part of the overall experience.

The back of a napkin is already associated with Aha moments and inspiration.  Its informality helps combat people’s instincts towards worrying about whether they can draw, have the “perfect” solution to the question, and other worries that can crop up if we were to use something more formal. It’s a good idea to reinforce this in the introduction to the game by encouraging teams to be as practical, whimsical and/or out of the box as they want, and, if winners will be named, by having categories that include playful ones.

Question strategy: define a question that’s open-ended and requires more than a couple of words to answer.  Keep it relatively short and clear.  Don’t worry that the question is too “big” in terms of its scope.  This game is meant to inspire conversation and ideation.

Another important thing about the question is to make sure it relates to something that all the potential players have in common.  Some examples of common things are:

  • a speech that everyone’s heard,
  • a book or article that everyone’s read,
  • a company or organization they’ve all done business with or been a part of in some other way,
  • an experience they’ve had in common, such as being a parent or living in the same community.

Team size:  you can choose to set the team size to be exactly n players, no fewer than n players, no more than n players, or n to y players.  I recommend that the numbers be somewhere between 2 and 6.  If you’re running the game at an event where people decide to play or not, going with the “n to y players” would work best.  This is because people are playing and networking at the same time, and if 4 people want to play in one place and 2 in another, for example, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to.  In an environment where it’s important to you that everyone plays, setting team sizes more precisely might work better.

With regard to team formation, you can go with an unconference approach and have multiple questions and have people gravitate to the question they want to answer and find others to team with, or go with something more defined.

Logistics:

  • A napkin that’s around 5″ x 5″ in its folded form works well. It’s better to get ones with a smooth surface so it’s easier to write on.  Gel pens work well, fyi, if you’re providing pens.
  • If you are playing the game with multiple questions or in a large space, consider having a host/facilitator at each question’s station to explain the game and answer questions.
  • I recommend having a flip chart or other large-format paper hanging on the wall and having players tape their napkins to that.
  • Tell players the timeframe in which the game will be played.

[This game is credited to Sheila Kim.]

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Draw the Problem

Bill Keaggy sketching

Object of Play
On any given day, we prioritize the problems that get our attention. Problems that are vague or misunderstood have a harder time passing our internal tests of what matters and, as a result, go unaddressed and unsolved. Often, meetings that address problem-solving skip this critical step: defining the problem in a way that is not only clear but also compelling enough to make people care about solving it. Running this short drawing exercise at the beginning of a meeting will help get the laptops closed and the participants engaged with their purpose.

Number of Players: Works best with small groups of 6–10 participants

Duration of Play: 20–30 minutes


How to Play
1. Each participant should have a large index card or letter-sized piece of paper. After introducing the topic of the meeting, ask the participants to think about the problem they are here to solve. As they do so, ask them to write a list of items helping to explain the problem. For example, they may think about a “day in the life” of the problem or an item that represents the problem as a whole.

2. After a few minutes of this thinking and reflection, ask the participants to flip over their paper and draw a picture of the problem, as they would explain it to a peer. They may draw a simple diagram or something more metaphorical; there are no prizes or punishments for good or bad artistry. The drawing should simply assist in explaining the problem.

3. When everyone is finished, have the participants post their drawings on the wall and explain them to each other. While the group shares, note any common elements. After the exercise, the group should reflect on the similarities and differences, and work toward a shared understanding of what the problem looks like to each other.

Strategy
This warm-up does not result in a problem definition that will satisfy an engineer; rather, it engages participants in defining the challenge in a simplified form. It is a first step in bringing a group together under a common purpose, elevating the problem above the noise to become something they care to solve.

The Draw the Problem game is credited to James Macanufo.